During our time spent in training as preparation for becoming carers we were exposed to a whole world of different situations, they were confronting, emotional and sometimes down right mind boggling. In an effort to try and cover all bases they listed some of the most horrendous, outrageous and depressing things that kids who’ve been in care can do.
Some things were pretty basic, like hoarding food, apparently this was one of the most standard habits. Many children in care, they would tell us, would find comfort and safety in hoarding food in their rooms or other places. They wanted to prepare us for that inevitable moment when we would walk into the room and want to discover what that festering smell was and find a stash of food piled up under the bed. For many it’s a matter of safety, preparation in case something went wrong, for some they never had enough to eat at home and always lived in fear of going hungry again.
Other things involved behaviours, like swearing and running away or detailing how obscure things can trigger traumatic memories and create outbursts or breakdowns. Some things were even more detailed and depressing, but if we were to do down that road you’d need a moment and a few stiff drinks to process it all, that was the confrontational stuff.
But the thing about all this preparation was that it was all “what if’s” and “maybe’s” and “possibilities” because you never ever can know what is going to be around the corner, so the need to try and brief us on everything was high.
Coming out of this training, processing it all and moving forward preparing to look after this little human was daunting. There is always this constant narrative in your head when you see and hear things they do, you’re always thinking “Why? What’s caused this? What’s happening inside that head and how can we fix it?” Then just when you think you might be on top of it they love to throw you a curve ball.
It was a day at the beach.
Dad had to go to work so Daddy had decided a nice day trip to the beach with the dog would be lovely. So bags packed, off they went and enjoyed a lovely afternoon swimming in the surf and mucking around with the four legged child.
Afterwards in the car home a smell started to seep through the car.
“Mate… did you fart?”
“No! That’s disgusting”
The dog looked up immediately as if to protest her innocence.
It worsened as they got home, something was definitely not right.
So off he was sent to have a shower.
“Pass your clothes out when your done and I’ll take them down to get washed” he called out to him.
The door opened and a hand thrust out the dirty beach clothes, the smell was overpowering.
“Right, he’s not made it to the bathroom in time or something.”
Habitually he took the clothes down for washing, he checked the underwear and nothing, clean. Then he started to empty the pockets before putting the pants in the wash and as he reached in he felt something unexpected, the penny dropped, he flung the pants on the ground and stepped back.
He’d brought home a turd in his pocket.
That’s right, you read correctly, a turd, in his pocket.
One set of gloves, half a bottle of disinfectant and 3 washes of the offending clothing later we reconvened.
We were stumped, when confronted with the evidence he turned the most innocent eyes upon us and shrugged.
“So you were in the water and you needed to go?”
“Fair enough, it happens, but why did you bring it back and then home?”
“Right… well next time you know you can leave it in the water? Or at least take it back to a bathroom, ok?”
“…. so, I’m not in trouble…?”
“No mate… lets just try to use a toilet in the future?”
We went back over the notes, surely we must have missed the section about defecating in his pocket? Nope, nothing.
A few days later we caught up with his psychologist and he laughed, a lot. In all his years, he said, that was a first.
Was there some deep reason at play?
There could have been endless possibilities or reasons but nothing concrete, no textbook to answer the questions, just the never ending mind of this child. Perhaps it was a test?
Whatever it was it certainly taught us that you can never ever be prepared for what’s to come next and always be cautious when doing the washing.